For thousands of years Burmese boxing has been one of the main national sports of Burma.
But when the SEA Games are held in the country in December it will not be one of the sports as no other country fights in that style.
The more internationally recognized Thai boxing will be featured instead.
Saw Ohn Myint is a former Gold Belt national champion in Burmese boxing.
“I was very keen of boxing so I had sacrificed a lot. Finally, I got the Gold Belt.”
He would have loved to have represented his country in front of a home crowd at the upcoming South East Asian Games. But for now he’s focusing on local competitions.
“I am not very keen on Muay Thai. I don’t want to fight. I just like Burmese traditional boxing.”
Burmese boxing is nearly three times as old as Thai boxing.
Both sports are unarmed martial arts akin to kickboxing, but Myanmar style is fast and more violent and decided when an opponent gets knocked out.
Traditionally there were no rules and the winner was the first to draw blood.
In an earlier attempt to promote the sport internationally, rules and a scoring system were introduced.
As a trainer of Burmese boxers, U Hla Soe Oo campaigns to have the sport in the SEA Games.
“When we told the Myanmar Boxing Federation about our boxing, they said they don’t know the style and so they couldn’t compete against us. They just want to compete in Muay Thai. Our traditional boxing isn’t known in South East Asian countries.”
The sport gets little support from the government and minimum sponsorship.
Hla Soe Oo would like see traditional boxing be promoted in neighbouring Thailand….
“Let’s say we can open a training school in Thailand. We can hold competitions. People can come to learn to fight in our style. This way, our boxing can become well-known. It just needs marketing.”
Dawn Nyo Lay is a famous traditional boxer who’s trying to fill in the gap.
He’s set up a boxing club called “Top One” with the help of a local businessman.
“We support young boxers as much as we can. Though I am not very well off, our rich friends help our club. The club has the potential to improve in the future… I will never give up, neither do my students.”
But boxer Saw Ohn Myint says that you cannot make career in the sort and he is retiring soon.
“I dreamed to set up other business. As there is no support from government in our country, the traditional boxing isn’t popular. We have also to take care of our families.”
There are 12 Burmese boxers who will compete in the SEA Games this year but they fight in the Thai style.
They hope one day to able to compete international in their own…Burmese fighting style.